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Laughing clouds' bellies

I stopped at the drug store at about 4:50 this afternoon and asked for my pills. They weren’t ready. Thirty minutes more.

Run another errand.

I drove south, then west and saw the singing sky, an opera of light. The sun had hidden behind horizon hills, but fat sunbeam fingers tickled the bottoms of the clouds. The laughing clouds’ bellies glowed pink. No, gold. Orange? Over there, violet. Purple? Shining spangles against a backdrop of gray. No, silver.

Silhouetted, tall maples’ branches stretched skyward. At the treetops, swarming starlings, perched or flocking in flight. Branches, birds, all black. Behind, the insistent sunset.

I stopped at the store and parked, closed the car door and stood, head tilted, drinking in the sky. How to describe? How to describe the brook trout, finned delicate technicolor treasure? How to describe the filament of the Milky Way? How to describe crocus, blue jay, breeze, joy, life?

Passerby jolts my reverie: “You looking at the sky?”


“It’s something. I just told my wife a camera couldn’t capture it.”

“I was just standing here trying to figure out how I could describe it,” I said. “And I can’t.”

I stepped into the store. I needed calendars. One a little book, 365 days, hours divided into quarters, appointment slots. The other big, flat, a tablecloth of time for the desk. Days. To-do lists. Structure. Schedule. Order.

I walked outside again. No laughing clouds. No unnameable colors. Sun. Set. Sullen. Dark. December.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 27th, 2007 12:07 am (UTC)
OK, now I know someone who can describe the sunset in words. I also know someone (not me) who can take its picture successfully sometimes. I'll just stand back and admire the way both of you do it.
Dec. 27th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Carole. I knew as I admired the sunset that I'd have to write about it, but what came out of my fingertips was a lot different than the first draft in my head.
Dec. 27th, 2007 02:03 am (UTC)
December still, but lengthening days again, finally. Thanks for the sunset.
Dec. 27th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
And thank God the solstice is behind us.
Dec. 27th, 2007 03:56 am (UTC)

Sometimes words aren't enough.
Sometimes conscious thoughts even, don't quite cover it.
That's where raw emotion takes over.

This sunset seems to qualify. Spectacular.
Dec. 27th, 2007 03:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Lizz. Over the past couple of days I've been reading poems by ee cummings and a book about his work. The night before, I had read where cummings said, "I am an Artist, I am a Man, I am a Failure ..." He wasn't being down on himself by using the word failure, because he was simply acknowledging the fact that (quoting from the book here) "the artistic reproduction of an object is not the object itself."

The concept of failure as it relates to his art is a lot more complicated, but I'm trying to be concise. And what I'm getting at is that although I'm not an "artist" by any means, the idea that my writing will inevitably be a failure is liberating, because it loosens the grip of ambitions toward perfection.

Dec. 27th, 2007 04:16 am (UTC)
i was stuck working indoors all day, but your words are enough to help me picture what it must've looked like outside. thanks!
Dec. 27th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. I try to look up at the clouds, the stars, the sky whenever I can, because those sights often fill me with a childlike sense of awe, even if it's only for a moment.
Dec. 27th, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC)
a tablecloth of time

I continue to completely love your LJ.
Dec. 27th, 2007 03:32 pm (UTC)
Many thanks for the compliment! I wish I could say that phrase was the result of lots of brain sweat, but it just appeared out of nowhere -- from nowhere to the computer screen, through my fingertips. I really didn't have anything to do with it.
Dec. 27th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC)
Ah, but some of the best writing comes that way -- you've been a writer long enough to recognize THAT symptom.
Dec. 27th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
You're right: That is one of the mysteries of writing, and to me it's the most puzzling one.

Actually, there was a bit of word-choicing going on: At first I wanted to write that the desk calendar was the size of an area rug, but the tone wasn't quite right. "Tablecloth" suggested itself readily, given the way it covered most of the desktop, but the "of time" part, which was the key, came from someplace else.

Writing is a lot like standing in a thunderstorm, holding a lightning rod in the air: occasionally, a bolt blasts through you on the path between the rod and the ground. I am working on -- and always will be working on -- trying to better predict the weather.
Dec. 28th, 2007 02:08 pm (UTC)
Writing is a lot like standing in a thunderstorm, holding a lightning rod in the air: occasionally, a bolt blasts through you on the path between the rod and the ground.

Love the image.
Dec. 28th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
Maybe the best book I ever read about writing is called "Writing as Craft and Magic," by Carl Sessions Stepp. Stepp teaches journalism at the University of Maryland, so this book is written with journalists in mind. But a lot of what he writes seems to appeal to anyone who writes. For me, what resonated about this book was how he put into words things that I thought were personal idiosyncrasies:

You are cruising along a freeway or soaking in the shower, edging into sleep or savoring a stroll, and an idea flashes into your head, out of the blue. But where is this blue from which inspiration leaps? What secrets abide there? What puts you in touch with them?

Here is the magic of writing, the mysticism that intertwines with the methodical. Although writing is certainly a craft, it is far more [ ... ] It is also a magician's art, influenced as much by abstruse rites and incantations as by order and process. It is a world whose magical interventions can transport writers into a dreamland where words and ideas form themselves, seemingly spontaneously, into the shapes and patterns of literature.
(Emphasis mine.)

Dreamland. That's it.
Dec. 29th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC)
How wonderful, this description.
Dec. 29th, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC)
I was going to make the point myself that much good writing -- certainly most of the things I get complimented for -- are unintentional, spontaneous, rather that the sentences over which I've slaved so long.

But apart from that, it was merely an example in an entry that had many things to love. I could have snatched out a dozen other sentences for special mention. But still it's the overall feeling of this entry that makes me like it so much.
Dec. 30th, 2007 12:00 am (UTC)
Many thanks, again. Being able to write that post stemmed from being able to slow down and soak up the scene -- not just visually. And then I came home and wrote it while it was still fresh, and it didn't take long at all -- which is uncommon; most of the time, writing involves sweating out each word, little drops of consonants and vowels.
Dec. 30th, 2007 01:06 pm (UTC)
Most of the time, if something I'm writing isn't fairly effortless, it doesn't end up in my LJ at all. This is less a philosophical belief and more a practical fact: things get in the way and it never gets finished unless it gets finished quickly! But I do find that's the best way to do it. Sometimes there are things important enough to me that I struggle with them for days (I'm doing that now actually) and though I'm often very pleased with myself when those are done, no one else seems to do more than blink and scroll past. :)
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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